Is there a better time than fall? Not in the world of a sportsman! The fish are running up the rivers, the big game seasons are in full swing and of course the upland game and waterfowl hunts are at their prime. I didn’t hunt much as a kid and consider myself an adult rookie when it comes to any kind of shooting. When a friend suggested that I give pheasant hunting a try I couldn’t argue. Combining the pleasure of hiking and hunting sounded like a good idea to me.
Just my luck, the night before we headed out the winter Gods decided to dump over a foot of snow. I was not going to be deterred and just added layer into the clothing mix. The dogs had to work hard that morning to find the birds but they weren’t about to let an opportunity to hunt get away from them. The labs flushed bird after bird, my shots reminded me of a few hallmark ACC football games, wide right and wide left. It wasn’t this hard when I had “practiced” on the classic Nintendo! The stars finally aligned and a bird fell from the sky at the end of my barrel.
Now what to do with the quarry of the day? I had heard that pheasants were good smoked, so that’s the route a started down. The end result was stellar and was confirmed by all those lucky enough to get a bite. The process was simple, see below.
Take the pheasants breasts and soak them in a bowl of cold water with a dash of salt, it will help rid the meat of blood. Remove and rinse the breasts in cool water, then place in the brine bath. Brines can be very simple, look them up online or buy a pre-made version. I love the Hi Mountain Game Bird and Poultry brine, I’ve used it on everything from the Thanksgiving turkey to early season doves. The brining process is simple, add water to the brine blend and let it soak for a day or two.
For those that don’t have extra fridge space, use a bucket or water cooler. That time of year the temp rarely if ever gets above 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so it was safe to leave on the patio. I lined the 5 gallon bucket with 2 large trash bags then put the brine, water and ice cubes inside the bags. Be sure to keep the water/meat temps below 40 degrees.
Rotate, mix and stir the brine every six hours or so, brine it for at least 24 hours. Remove, rinse and place on the smoker racks. Be sure to spray the cool racks with non-stick spray. Get the Smoke Vault rolling at 180-200 degrees and cook until the breasts reach an internal temp of 165.